Self 5

Self-love before In-love

Part 5 of 5

i do not want to have you to fill the empty part of me

i want to be full on my own

i want to be so complete i could light a whole city and then

i want to have you

cause the two of us combined could set it on fire

Rupi Kaur

It’s part 5 of our journey on self-love before in-love. We’ve explored a few dangers on what can happen when we dive into love before cultivating self-love, why self-love is a calling to our best version and how knowing ourselves enables for us to set boundaries and keep us safe while we love others. Today to wrap it all up I want to talk about expectations; expectations for ourselves and for others.

We’ve all heard that the fastest way to disappointment is expectation. After all if you don’t expect anything, then nothing can let you down. You take it as it comes, you celebrate when it’s good but aren’t surprised when it isn’t.

For some time I bought into this idea, I started to believe I was expecting too much and that’s why I always felt let down, so I stopped asking and I stopped expecting but ironically I still seemed to demand too much just by being. What I hadn’t considered was that my “too much” was only considered that by those who didn’t match my lifestyle, my expectations of myself. Life has a funny way of shoving in our face the truths of our existence even when we strive to run away from them.

During one of my many conversations with a close friend of mine, I mentioned I was tired from my 13-hour shift but really needed a workout, so I would change and head to the gym before taking my nap. They chuckled, laughed really and said something that kind of changed my life a little, “Kathy, you demand greatness without asking for it. The way you live and how you move requires for those who want to remain close to you to be their greatest. It can be scary for most but to me, it just makes me want to be better. Thank you.”

I was speechless. You mean to tell me I’m not too much for wanting more? I’m not expecting unrealistically when I request matched energy? The thing is guys, I wasn’t requesting anymore, I was expecting my best from me and those around me where there because they did the same, for me and themselves.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying drop your friends or anyone that’s not trying to be their best. I have moments when I KNOW I’m far from the person I’m meant to be. As I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t a journey of the up and up till we reach a peak; it’s messy, it’s ugly, it’s cyclical but I know not to remain down. I know what I expect of me and knowing that allows for me to know what to expect from others in their relation to me. You can accept and love people from afar. You can accept and love people and know they don’t belong in your next chapter. It’s painful, it’s uncomfortable but love yourself enough to have expectations.

For me, I know I’ve worked hard to be where I’m at. I’ve done therapy sessions, gym sessions, whole 7-hour car rides with tears and prayer and cursing and self-reflecting till I had processed what haunted me. I expect myself to not respond negatively when someone lashes out. I expect myself to be empathetic and convert whatever negative energy comes my way and turn it into something positive. My expectations of myself are high and therefore I expect the same from those close to me.

Are their goals going to look like mine? No, they’re not meant to. We’re all created with individual talents for our own callings but their pursuit of that individual calling will look similar. When you love yourself you’ll expect the best out of you, when you love another you won’t let them dim down to anything but the best you see in them.

Expect people to enter your life to share their wholeness with you. We’re not out here looking for other halves, you’ll recognize your whole when you’re whole. You’ve fought hard to be here. Expect those closest to you to do the same because the love you have for you is the love you have for them.

Great expectations are better than a poor possession.

Miguel De Cervantes

Self 4

Self-love before In-love

Part 4 of 5

I don’t like it.

Former 3 year old patient

Full disclosure, today’s topic is a touchy one and will look different for every person reading this. What I have to say on this is based solely on my personal experience and how I feel about this matter. With that being said, let’s dive right in!

The word of the day is boundary.

When we’re kids it’s easy to establish boundaries because we seem to not care about what other’s think in regards to how we feel. Not too long ago life gave me the privilege of working with kids and one of my favorite babies had developmental delays when it came to his speech but a phrase that he very clearly and very often used was, “I don’t like it.”

Three years old, but this little guy was aware of what he liked and didn’t like and he wasn’t afraid to speak out on it. He knew his boundaries when it came to how long he could play, what food he would and would not eat and when he had had enough therapy.

At some point in time, life begins to teach us that we have to push our limits, know no bounds, reach and thrive and grow past our comfort zone. I preach this, I love this. I often find new ways to be uncomfortable in trying new things because I believe only then can I truly know what I’m made of.

In most cases this is grand, it opens doors for growth in careers, money revenue, new cities and sometimes even meeting new people that change our lives.

The boundaries I’m speaking on today are personal and relational boundaries. Boundaries that keep us safe, boundaries that are established so you don’t lose yourself in the journey of loving someone else. However, we can’t exactly establish boundaries for what we’re okay and not okay with if we don’t know and love ourselves.

Who we are is constantly changing but our core values, beliefs and fundamentals seldom change even when we grow. Knowing what these are and loving ourselves enough to stick to them keeps us from being manipulated or remaining in situations that don’t serve us.

I had just turned 22 when I got married. I knew some important boundaries for me – I wouldn’t live with a man I wasn’t married to. I would never let a man hit me. I would never stay if a man cheated. Naive boundaries, but none the less they were unspoken boundaries I felt were appropriate. Fortunately for me I married a good man, never laid a hand on me, never made me question that he would. My husband respected my wishes on not living together until we were married and never pressured me to do otherwise.

At 22 however, there were boundaries that I hadn’t established because I didn’t know how important they were to me and my mental health. I didn’t know my style of arguing or forgiveness. I didn’t know the many needs I would have when it came to communication with exes, coworkers or strangers. I didn’t know my own needs when it came to who and what was allowed within my marriage because I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be as a wife.

When it came to communicating, initially I didn’t express what made me uncomfortable (boundary), I didn’t want to seem childish but I in fact was a child. I behaved in childish ways, took matters into my own hands. If my husband would’t change his behavior (behavior I hadn’t voiced hurt me) then I would make him feel how I felt, maybe then he would learn. This toxic way of thinking brought forth the destruction of my marriage. It was a constant you hurt me so I hurt you and eventually it led me to losing the person I loved because I did not know how to love.

Now in retrospect, after doing the work, after diving into my own heart and my own wounds, I know the boundaries I have for myself and I can carry out those boundaries in my relationships outside of myself. Once I stepped out of a toxic environment, I no longer behaved in toxic patterns. Stepping out of what hurt me and how I hurt someone I loved, allowed for me to see where I had gone wrong and why and what I needed to do (the boundaries I needed to set) so I never found myself in such a place again.

For me, I love myself enough to not push my limits with what I consume. I love myself enough to not be sedentary. I love myself enough to work hard and overcome toxic traits. My boundaries with others keep me safe and help me grow in the same way- I don’t tolerate people yelling at me or calling me hurtful names; something that in the past I allowed. I establish boundaries of communication from the beginning- talk this out with me. I love affection but there’s a time and place.

For others, boundaries may be, we can be social media followers but we don’t share passwords. You can have friends but your exes aren’t allowed to enter our relationship. I’m okay with social gatherings- but don’t go see your individual friend past 6 pm.

Take time to love yourself enough to know when something or someone is hurting you. Dive deep into who you are and establish what is okay and what isn’t. If not, it’s too easy to lose yourself wanting to make everyone else happy, even when it means compromising your core. It’s okay to say no more to what you once allowed. Losing yourself is never worth it.

When you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t saying “no” to yourself.

Paulo Coehlo

Self 3

Self-love before In-love

Part 3 of 5

Love: to be deeply committed

Lisa Smith

Today I want to dive into why self-love is so pivotal to being healthily in-love, but before we dive into that I think it’s important to define what love means to me and in what context it’s being used. To some love is a feeling of deep connection, a commitment, “more than liking”.

Let’s digest this first part, a deep connection. I can honestly attest that there have been moments in my life where I’ve felt disconnected from who I knew I was. As if the person who stared back at me in the mirror was someone I did not recognize. How had I become so disconnected from myself? For starters, I had heard who I was (a feeler) was my downfall. In an attempt to change my identity and up my value, I tried to feel less. Eventually my feelings were so suppressed I became numb. A hard, cold-distant shell of the warm-vibrant, feeler I once knew.

The less connected I was, the less love I could feel. It wasn’t until I started therapy that I was hit with the hard truth- in order for me to truly love myself I couldn’t be numb, I had to FEEL every wound, every ache, I couldn’t experience the joys and the warmth if I didn’t deal with the rest.

So I started the work and the more I worked the more I saw a warrior; resilient, strong, intelligent. I saw a woman who was now facing everything she had ran from. Once I began to accept myself and my one million and one feelings, I learned to identify them. Once I could identify, I could process and once I could process I could learn and let go. This allowed for me to form a deep understanding and connection with my truest, rawest, most authentic self. I was forced to face who I had been and who I now was and embrace her, connect with her, forgive her, feel.

Commitment. My deepest commitment in turn became my commitment to self. I know, this may sound selfish but I promise you if you can’t commit for you and to you, you’ll either commit to those who don’t deserve you or not commit at all.

What did commitment to self look like? For me, it meant being intentional about identifying my feelings, who and what I was allowing to take away my peace and praying for wisdom to step out of anything that wasn’t meant for me. Commitment meant seeing the ugly in me and working to be better. It meant recognizing the toxic traits I had carried for so long and putting in the work to break free from them.

“More than liking” flowed naturally for me after I felt connected and committed to being the greatest version of myself. What we invest our time and thoughts in becomes valuable to us and I was valuable to me. The more I worked internally the less I accepted externally. If it didn’t sit well with me and who I was called to be, it didn’t belong. This set the ground for establishing boundaries and expectations with myself first and then with others (we’ll touch on this in the next two sessions).

We’ve all heard the famous 1 Corinthians 13 love chapter recited on Valentine’s Day, at weddings, even in cute little cards. We’ve heard variations on how if applied correctly it can be effective in love towards our spouses, our kids, our parents.

What about its effectiveness in loving you?

What if instead of reading “Love is patient love is kind….” or even “Kathy is patient, Kathy is kind…” we added who she’s patient with, with the recipient being me.

Kathy is patient with Kathy. Kathy is kind to Kathy.

Kathy does not envy Kathy (maybe a version of herself she once knew).

Kathy keeps no record of Kathy’s wrongs.

To some, this may sound like a free pass, but when you’re truly connected to your higher calling, when you commit to being your best version and when you “more than like” yourself, you don’t use forgiveness as an opportunity to fall again but rather you hold onto that grace and understand that your wrongs were there to teach you right and do right.

I read a post on Instagram a few days ago, it went a little something like this

The relationship you have with yourself is the most complicated because you can’t walk away from you. You have to forgive every mistake. You have to deal with every flaw. You have to find a way to love you even when you’re disgusted with you.

Jay Shetty

Be kind to yourself. I’m going to repeat it as many times as I repeat it to myself. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Be better for you.

Don’t close off to the beautiful person that lies within you because someone hurt your identity or told you you had no value. Commit to connection, commit to self-affection. Show up with all you have to give for you.

Your relationship with God and with yourself sets the template for every other relationship in your life. Don’t give up on who you are. You’ll recognize the royalty when you choose to stop settling for a version of yourself that doesn’t belong. I believe in you. And trust, I know the journey to self-love isn’t easy nor is it constantly on the up and up but don’t give up.

When you start to lose heart, when you feel you’re too weak or unworthy, replace those thoughts with, “YOU are kind to YOU” and do it.

Self 2

Self-love before In-love

Part 2 of 5

Remember who you are.

Mufasa

Ah yes, the famous words of Mufasa to Simba as he scolded him on how he had forgotten who he was… a king.

To continue on our journey of self-love before in-love, I want to touch on the second crisis I believe can derive from falling in love before we have sufficient self-love, the identity crisis.

In Simba’s case, he knew who he was he was just choosing to live outside of that reality due in great part to fear and pain.

I believe in our case, two things can lead to an identity crisis when we’re in love with someone before knowing ourselves. These two reasons are either that we’ve forgotten who we are (due to our environment) or we’ve never known who we are. Both can be scary in relationships as we may tend to attach our identity to who we are with our significant other rather than who we truly are.

In my case, my identity was tied to the title “wife” and how as a wife I wasn’t claimed accordingly (in my perspective of course). Although I was a wife before God, my family and my close friends, not holding that title on social media hurt me.

Did I hold other identities? Well sure, I was also a daughter, a sister, a friend, a graduate student, a therapist, a christian; but the identity that held most value to me at that moment was the identity I felt was my right but not fully, publicly given, “wife”.

Having that identity placed in that role and believing that my role was being kept hidden on social media created other subsequent identity issues within me. Was identifying with me an embarrassment? Was I simply not good enough? Had I, an enneagram 3 (forever needing to overachieve) failed at my role and the thing that defined me? Did that by default, make me a failure?

Guys let me tell you something, no one should have to battle with those thoughts day in and out. I know they look different for each person reading this today. Maybe the title you identify with is “provider” and you don’t know how you’re going to pay the mortgage this month. Maybe your title used to be “sunshine” but you’re finding very little to shine over these days and it makes you feel like you’ve failed your partner, your family.

The thing about identity is no one can define who or what you are except who and what you give power to. If I allow for my partner to dictate my identity, he will. If I allow for my past to tell me who I am, it will. If I allow God to tell me who I am, He can and He will.

What is it that God says about me and who I am?

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 NIV

YOU. Chosen, royal, holy (set apart), special.

That is your identity.

I know at times it can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to fit the cookie cutter image your partner wants. All of a sudden we have new taste in music, new taste in art, we’re healthy or nerdy or whatever we think we need to be to identify as the ideal partner.

I want to challenge you to love yourself enough to remember who you are. Don’t change for every person that walks in and out of your door. Grow? Yes. Evolve? Yes. But may it all be under the identity of your chosen, royal, holy, special nature.

Self 1

Self-love before In-love

Part 1 of 5

The Lord appeared to us in the past saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

We live in a culture that constantly glorifies the idea of being in love. From our favorite tear-jerking Nicholas Sparks’ novels to whole baby-making albums; the concept that we are incomplete until we’ve found our other “half” is constantly engraved into our minds.

In certain cultures, if you’re a female not dreaming of a wedding or procreating or a man striving to leave a legacy, something is off. The idea that life isn’t as satisfying until we have someone to share it with echoes in the back of our minds.

With this constant reminder, at times it can become easier to love the idea of being in love rather than actually love another. We can even find ourselves stepping into relationships before we’ve truly created a healthy relationship with ourselves.

To me, there are two major crisis that can occur when we step into love before cultivating self-love; the first is that of value and the second is that of identity.

Today I want to begin with the crisis of value by sharing the raw reality of my experience as I fell into love before truly understanding what self-love meant and entailed.

I, at one very prideful point in my life, believed I had it all figured out. I thought I had mastered the art of self-love because I knew when to take breaks and how to say no to a second plate of cake. In reality, there were too many areas of self-love that I had left undiscovered therefore leaving parts of me undiscovered and with no knowledge of value.

Naturally this made the process of falling in love easy, effortless and filled with an attachment to value. You see to me, having an intelligent, handsome, kind man approach me, pursue me and want to build a life with me meant there was value within me, enough value to invest in me, enough value to match the value I saw in him.

What I hadn’t accounted for was the idea that part of that “value” that I believed I held in his eyes was a potential (conditional, so to speak) value. Value based off of how fast I learned from my mistakes, how well I responded under pressure or pain, how loyal I remained when I felt betrayed.

As I fell short to such expectations so did my value in my eyes. What once was worth the fight and heartache no longer was and I couldn’t disagree. The less value I felt I had in his eyes the less value I saw in me (even though to him, my value remained)the less value I saw in me, the worse I was allowed to behave because after all – I had little to lose.

What did that look like for me? Poor thoughts, words and actions.

Had my value been found in Christ, unconditional from what I did but because of what He did for me; had I cultivated self-love and understood the value in my own accountability and growth- I would’ve understood that I in fact was not without value but rather priceless.

Listen, I know at times it’s easy to question our value. It’s easy to assume that our value is found in how much we make, how many college classes we’ve taken, how pleasing we are to our partners. Society constantly screams “net worth” as if they’ve got the true measurement and testament of value. I know it’s easy to let the world tell you that if you held more value you wouldn’t be single, divorced or with a significant other that could treat you better- it’s BS.

Your value is based solely on the One Who created you. Your value is based off of who He says you are (someone valuable enough to leave a thrown in heaven and become a man over). Master your self-love. Love yourself enough to not accept less than the best starting with you. Call out to your best version. You are worth more than your biggest mistake and darkest choice. Be kind to yourself.

Spirit 1

Holism to me involves the spirit, mind and body. Only when we begin with the source of love and identity can we truly embark in the adventure and journey of knowing ourselves and fall in an endless love with our spirit because we understand that we were created in the image of perfection.
The bible tells us:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful. I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:14

In order to trust that the works of God are wonderful we need to believe that He is a God that wants what is best for us.

How do we develop such trust in a being we cannot see or tangibly feel? How do we cultivate a relationship with someone who at times feels so far?

For me, the adventure of the spirit begins with matters of the heart. How is it that my best friend became just that? How do I fall in love? What is it that allows for me to believe in the goodness of others against all odds?

Simple, relationship and the food for my heart just so happens to lie in its majority with physical touch, words of affirmation and a close third, quality time. Often times we hear these buzz words and believe them to be applicable to family and lovers but seldom do we think of God as a life long partner when the beginning of life is rooted in Him.

This week I want to encourage you to explore what your love languages are and how those can be applied to your relationship with Christ as you explore the spirit that lies within you.

Just in case you need some ideas I’m going to share the things I implement to help feed those areas of my heart and spirit:

Physical touch – I’m a huge sucker for the beach and for me there are few experiences that allow me to feel the closeness of God the way I do when I’m sitting on the warm sand or being embraced by the morning wind and salty waves. It’s a moment that screams out, “I’m here, I love you.”

Words of Affirmation- The bible is the ultimate love letter, a testament of a God that at all costs wouldn’t give up on its true love. Despite the faults and lack of reciprocation, He really did chose me before I chose Him. In the famous words of Meredith Grey, “Pick me, choose me, love me.” I encourage you to look at the bible as a personal love letter to you because the reality of it is that if you would’ve been the only one that needed saving, He would’ve left the 99 for you.

Quality time- This one to me is a bit more simple. Put your favorite worship album on and just be in His presence, go for a drive in your car and thank Him for all you see and hear, plan a bible study or book club and dive into some quality time digesting what God wants to say to you. The possibilities are endless and I cannot wait to hear what you implement for your personal journey of the spirit.